• Government appoints chair for covid-19 test and trace scheme
  • Dido Harding to oversee programme
  • Role includes overseeing work on national surveillance and immunity certification 

Dido Harding has been appointed chair of the government’s test and trace programme, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

NHS Improvement chair Baroness Harding will start the role immediately and report directly to prime minister Boris Johnson and cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill.

Mr Johnson yesterday said the government’s ambition was to provide capacity for 200,000 tests per day by the end of May.

The government’s head of testing, John Newton, will remain in an “expanded position” and act as the “professional link” to the programme’s public health, scientific and clinical expertise alongside the deputy chief medical officers, a government statement said.

As part of her unpaid role, Baroness Harding will lead on the new contact-tracing app being trialled on the Isle of Wight, swab and antibody testing, contact tracing, national surveillance and immunity certification.

Matt Hancock said Baroness Harding’s “significant experience” in healthcare and “fantastic leadership” would be an “added strength” to the test and trace programme. Baroness Harding, a Conservative peer, joined NHSI as chair in October 2017.

Prior to joining NHSI she was TalkTalk’s chief executive between 2010 and 2017. During her time at TalkTalk, the organisation saw four million customers’ data accessed by hackers after a cyber attack.

Baroness Harding said: “As we move to the next phase of the government’s plan, I am confident that we can use the very best of our tech, research and people power to help keep covid-19 at bay.”